Four-time Olympian Ray Borner has urged the Boomers to think of the future and blood rising big man Rocco Zikarsky in this week’s World Cup qualifiers.
Borner is concerned about Australia’s top-layer of centre depth, especially with Aron Baynes nearing the end of his stellar career.
Baynes, 36, could play in Paris 2024, but its tipped to be his final Olympic campaign.
The Boomers possess decent depth via Jock Landale, Duop Reath and a cast of gifted juniors like seven-footer Bowyn Beatty, but the next generation bigs require more polish and experience to make the step up.
It’s why Borner wants to see 16-year-old Zikarsky – who has been named as a training player – receive game-time against Bahrain and Kazakhstan given Australia has already qualified for the World Cup.
“There is nothing wrong with putting in young Rocco now,” said Borner, a hard-nosed centre who represented the Boomers at the 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympics.
“We know he (Rocco) isn’t ready yet age wise, but it’s worth giving him some game time to show him what it is all about.
“It will only help with his development because he’ll understand roles and the team’s culture.
“He can literally grow up as a player with the guys around him in the Boomers squad, rather than just coming in and the expectation is that you are going to be the man.”
Zikarsky, a Queenslander and NBA Global Academy product who stands at 220cm, is currently on the NBL’s radar as a potential Next Star.
He will be joined in the Boomers squad by fellow train-on players in Western Australian duo Ben Henshall and Alex Condon.
Henshall (guard) and Condon (centre) played starring roles to lead their state to under-20 men’s glory at the national championships in Geelong last week.
Both had 24 points apiece in the gold medal game as they showcased why they’re among the country’s best basketball prospects.
Borner is rapt to see the next generation Boomers given a chance to shine.
He understands the importance of blooding emerging players after seeing Russia give a young Arvydas Sabonis a shot in 1982, paving the way for him to become an Olympic gold medallist and Hall of Famer.
“Sabonis was around 16 at the time and he was on the end of the bench,” he said.
“The team would go in for halftime and he’d be out on the court shooting around.
“We saw him, we knew he wasn’t ready, but he was still part of that growth and journey.
“I think our young Boomers players can also benefit from playing still if we give them a chance.”
BOOMERS WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS: State Basketball Centre, Wantirna South
Thursday, February 23 vs Bahrain
Sunday, February 26 vs Kazakhstan
Mitch McCarron (36ers), Mitch Norton (Wildcats), Nathan Sobey (Bullets), Kyle Adnam (Phoenix), Nick Marshall (36ers), Dan Grida (Hawks), Todd Blanchfield (Wildcats), Alex Toohey (ACT, Gonzaga), Rhys Vague (Kagawa Five Arrows, Japan), Mason Peatling (United), Isaac Humphries (United), Nick Kay (Shimane Susanoo Magic, Japan)
Rocco Zikarsky (NBA GA), Alex Condon (WA), Ben Henshall (WA)
Originally published as FIBA World Cup qualifiers: Boomers urged to blood Rocco Zikarsky in Melbourne games